Strategic Thinking: The First Step is Simple - BusinessBlog : McGraw-Hill
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Strategic Thinking: The First Step is Simple

Guest blog by John Manfredi, co-author of Think to Win .

What’s the first thing you have to know — and do — to think strategically – to think out-of-the box and creatively? What must you do to consistently get an edge that enables you to out-think and outsmart the competition? How do you keep you from getting bogged down in the small day-to-day stuff that never ends? And how do you put yourself in a position to achieve something really big on the job … and in your life?

Surprising as it may seem, it all starts by following a very simple precept: – Always challenge all assumptions.

Now that seems easy to do, especially if we’re talking about a boss you don’t think much of. Questioning whether he or she knows what they’’re doing is easy to agree with.

But it becomes more difficult when we realize that the principle also applies to us … to each and every one of us… and every single member of our team, if we’re working with a group. We have to challenge ourselves and ask whether what we assume are the facts and the correct basis for our thinking …really are.

Based on decades of experience, we know that false assumptions … mistaken beliefs … and so-called tried and true approaches cause as many problems and failed efforts at strategic thinking as any other factor.

It’’s so easy to assume that what we’ve always done … is what we should continue to do. Even though we know that the world all around us is changing at warp speed. So what was done yesterday is very unlikely to work tomorrow.

In my new book that I co-authored, Think to Win: Unleashing the Power of Strategic Thinking, I discuss the events surrounding the rise and fall of Crumbs, the specialty baker that caught the crest of the cupcake wave. They began as a small shop in an upscale section of Manhattan, attracting customers who lined up around the block for their stylishly decorated cupcakes in dozens of wonderful flavors from red velvet to caramel macchiato.

As the cupcake craze swept the country, Crumbs expanded nationally and went public. They had the formula for success. But unfortunately, they never challenged it. And what worked in the past no longer worked as the fickle public moved away from cupcakes … and Crumbs had not diversified their product line.

As the long-lines of waiting customers disappeared, the losses mounted. Crumbs closed its doors, filed for bankruptcy and was eventually acquired by an investment partnership.

The message: Always challenge assumptions.

Clearly, there’s more to insightful, strategic thinking than not taking things for granted. In my book, I outline five principles and a disciplined process that brings everything together. But there is nothing mysterious or beyond the grasp of most people.

Thinking strategically – thinking to win — turns out to be something we all can …and should …do.

John F. Manfredi, who heads the strategic consulting and communications group, Manloy Associates, was engaged for years in strategic thinking and planning as one of the executives who turned around Nabisco and Gillette. He also co-authored the best-selling Doing What Matters – How to Get Results That Make a Difference with legendary CEO Jim Kilts.

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